Housing is a fundamental right. My speech on homelessness at a seminar.

Dear friends,

I am Laura Meriluoto, Member of Parliament.

I thank you for inviting me to open this important event. I have a long experience of working in social organisations and homelessness is an issue I’ve given much energy in my own politics.

In Finland we can be proud of having the lowest homelessness rates in the EU. Homelessness is also decreasing in Finland in total, while elsewhere in Europe the situation is going in the opposite direction. 

That indicates we are clearly doing something right. 

The housing first model is one of the factors behind Finland’s progress towards a society in which everyone is housed.

After all, the housing first model is very simple and logical. It is based on the idea that a person in need of social support must first have a permanent place to live, after which other forms of support can be introduced.

Of course, we still have a lot to do and international cooperation is also important here. 

This is another reason why it is great that we are here today. 

In Finland, the majority of homeless people are men, but the proportion of women has increased. This is a trend we have seen elsewhere. 

Homelessness among gender and sexual minorities is more common in Finland than in most EU countries.

It is worrying that social workers report that the condition and situation of young homeless people has deteriorated.  The problems faced by homeless young people are also deeper and more complex. 

Homelessness statistics also do not identify all types of homelessness. A person may be registered with a relative, for example, but in practice is staying  on a sofa only temporarily. This is not living in your own home.

Homelessness also looks different in different parts of Finland. It is concentrated in large cities. 

The rise in long-term homelessness is also a cause for concern. This is also a regional issue. It has declined in many large cities in recent years. But in my home town of Kuopio, for example, it has increased. 

We still need more services targeted at different groups. For example, homelessness among women is associated with a lot of shame, trauma and violence. Fear often prevents women from seeking help. 

The corona pandemic worsened the situation of homeless people in many ways. We as political decision makers need more information on what kind of aftercare is needed. 

Dear friends,

We politicians must remember that homelessness is a social problem. We must not forget our responsibility and that the state has a duty to promote everyone’s right to housing.

Housing is a fundamental right and a home belongs to everyone. Let us continue to work together to make this a reality everywhere. 

I wish everyone an interesting seminar and good discussions. 

Thank you.

The seminar was organised by Vailla vakinaista asuntoa ry.